According to The American Heritage Dictionary, polygamy is “The condition or practice of having more than one spouse at one time. Also called plural marriage” (The American Heritage Dictionary, 2005). Recently there has been a large amount of speculation about polygamy in the media. Speculation and bigotry has also become out of hand with the public, so the purpose of this paper is to provide accurate information about the Fundamental Ladder Day Saints, or FLDS, members.
I will provide information on the historical background of the FLDS religion, the important holidays, traditions, and the challenges that FLDS members must face every day; including what the women have to say, who have left the FLDS religion. I will also share information given to me by a member of the FLDS faith. The Fundamental Ladder Day Saints is a religion that broke away from the Ladder Day Saint, or Mormon religion, in 1890. The FLDS is just one of the hundreds of sects that broke away from the Mormon religion. Before there were any sects from the Mormon religion, there was only one religion, which was started by Joseph Smith in 1830.
Joseph Smith decided to add a doctrine to his religion, which was the practice of polygamy. The men within the Mormon religion were encouraged to take more then one wife, and if the men did not take more then one wife they were looked down upon by the community. Joseph Smith wrote a book, which is said, came from the visions Smith received, and this book became known as the Book of Mormon. In 1844, Joseph Smith was killed after engaging in a gun fight. After Smith’s death, Brigham Young became the leader of the Mormon religion. Fleeing from prosecution in the state of Missouri, Brigham young led his followers to the state of Utah.
While in Utah the Mormon religion began to grow rapidly and soon enough the Mormons dominated the state. During this time the Mormons were trying to receive statehood from the government, but were repeatedly denied because of the practice of polygamy. In 1908, Willford Woodruff, the fourth prophet of the LDS faith, decided to declare polygamy un-acceptable in the Mormon religion. This move won statehood for the LDS followers. When the declaration of no more polygamy was made, many individuals were very displeased with this decision and decided to leave the LDS religion and continue with the original practices.
Thus began the FLDS religion. The FLDS religion was led by John Y. Barlow and Joseph White Musser. The members of the FLDS settled in a town they named Short Creek in the state of Arizona, which later became known as Colorado City. Soon after, the FLDS begin to venture further and begin to settle in other areas such as Colorado, Texas, Utah, British Columbia, and Mexico. In 1942, the leaders of the FLDS religion establish the United Effort Plan that was “a religious charitable trust, owning virtually all of the land in the area.
Members are allowed to build on the land in exchange for 10% of their total income. Because the title to the land remains with the UEP, dissidents who leave the church cannot continue to live on the property nor can they sell the homes, which revert back to the trust” (Walker, 2004). In 1953, the first allegations of the lifestyle and practices of the FLDS were first brought to the attention of the public. Allegations were being made that the men of the religion were raping the women, young and old; there was incest, physical abuse, and the marrying of very young girls to older men.
The governor of Arizona at the time heard what was being said about the FLDS and decided to do a surprise raid on the FLDS members living in the Short Creek area. On the morning of July 26, 1953 “a raiding party of about 120 law enforcement officers — state Highway Patrol, sheriff’s deputies and liquor control agents — descended on the community. In all, 36 men were arrested. Authorities loaded 86 women and 263 children aboard buses to Phoenix” (Kelly & Cohn, 2006). The surrounding communities of the FLDS were more upset about the raid upon the FLDS members then they were about the allegations being spread about the FLDS members.
In 1960, Short Creek was renamed Colorado City by the president of the religion. I had the opportunity to interview a gentleman who practices the FLDS religion. During the interview I held with Ezra Steele, at his home, on October 28, 2009, I asked questions concerning his religious beliefs on holidays, traditions, the basic beliefs of the religion, and the challenges he and his family face every day. Following are some of the questions I asked during the interview: Question- I want to start by asking what the basic beliefs of the FLDS religion are?
Steele- The most important belief among the religion is having many wives. The more wives a man has the higher he is regarded by God, and the closer he will become to God in heaven. We also believe God resides in Colorado City, which is why I have chosen to raise my family here. Question- What is the role of women in the religion? Steele- The role of women is to bear many children, run the household, and to follow their husbands. Question- Are the women allowed to work, or get an education, instead of bearing children?
Steele- The women’s job is not to make money for the family, or to use her mind for education. The woman uses her mind to raise well behaved children and to follow the word of God, which is represented by her husband. Yes, some women do work, and some women do go to school, but these women still have children and are not looked at as highly as the women who stay in the home. Question- Does the FLDS religion practice any holidays? Steele- We do not practice any holidays. We believe celebrating holidays takes you away from doing Gods work.
The only thing we do celebrate is, once a year, we all gather together, one Sunday in the month of April, and have a conference to celebrate Jesus birth. Question- Why do you celebrate Jesus birth in April? Steele- Because Jesus was born in April. Question- Does the FLDS religion or your family have any traditions? Steele- Once again we don’t have any traditions, because it takes away from doing Gods work. The only thing my family does, that I guess you can consider a tradition, is each girl in the family receives a hope chest when they are five years old to start gathering things for when they are married.
Question- What types of things do the girls put into their hope chests? Steele- They put things like, dishes, decorations, baby clothes, and things like that, so they are prepared when they are married. Question- Being a part of the FLDS religion, what are some of the struggles you and your family face every day? Steele- I would have to say the biggest struggles for me and my family is not letting the distractions in the world interfere with Gods work. Question- Can you tell me what kinds of distractions are in the world? Steele- Things like television and video games.
Question- Are there any other struggles? Steele- It is hard to deal with the stares, and whispering every time we go somewhere in public. This interview was done with a man who is in the FLDS religion, and finds his beliefs and practices to be honest and true to God. During the interview, Steele had his first wife sitting next to him. I was not allowed to ask her any questions, nor was she allowed to speak. The mannerisms of the woman, and the blank look in her eyes, made the interview uncomfortable. There was a feeling of fear and sadness coming from the women that consumed the room.
Many women and men who have left the FLDS religion tell about encounters of rape, sexual abuse, physical abuse, and mental abuse that occurred while being involved with the FLDS religion. These are secrets that are kept hidden from the public, so the public does not become involved with the FLDS lifestyle. Following is an example of what these women have experienced: “The sexual abuse started when I was 8, and from my father, it eventually moved into, what it not only encompassed my father, but some of my brothers as well, which is very, very common.
My father raped me on numerous occasions. I didn’t know it was rape at the time. What they see it as is (that) it is the only way (women) are allowed to enter heaven. They must submit. He quoted scripture when he molested me; the scripture quotes were from the Book of Mormon, not from the Bible” (The Amarillo Independent, 2009). Next I would like to compare the FLDS religion with Hinduism. I chose Hinduism, because I wanted to show how different, and yet so similar religions can be. “Hinduism is an ancient religion with no founder or known date of origin.
The term “Hinduism” simply derives from the word “India” and refers to a wide variety of religious traditions, and philosophies that have developed in India over thousands of years” (Religion Facts, 2009). The Hindu religion is thought to be named Hinduism from Western influences, but many Hindus like to refer to Hinduism as sanatama dharma, which means eternal religion. Within the Hindu religion, there are many different beliefs one can choose to follow, which some of these are Shiva beliefs, Vishnu beliefs, or the belief to follow one’s own divinity within.
Most Hindus do believe in a similar belief, the belief in Brahma, who is the creator of all things. There’s a false belief that all Hindus believe in more then one god, but in fact, since there are no regulations in the religion, individuals have the freedom to choose whether they believe in one god, or many gods. The main goal in the Hinduism religion is for one’s self to become spiritually enlightened, to become one with the creator. The teachings of Hinduism revolve around being moral, and regarding the consequences of the actions that one takes. According to All Poetry, Hinduism actions are seen in Karma, Yoga, and spiritual truth, which affect the actions that are taken in ones life (All Poetry, 2009). When someone’s actions addresses the issues of Karma, people are more likely think twice about what they are doing, so Karma does not turn back on them. Yoga allows the person to be free and in touch with oneself, which allows for a greater spiritual experience. The ideal of Spiritual Truth is that, once someone is so close, and in touch with oneself then the issues of the world could be resolved peacefully rather then with violence. * In comparing the FLDS religion with the Hinduism religion, the main differences are, in the FLDS religion there are set beliefs, practices, and rules that the members of the religion must follow to be allowed to stay in the religion, where in the Hinduism religion individuals are allowed to practice their own set of beliefs, practices, and rules. For example, in the FLDS religion they believe there is only one God, where in Hinduism individuals are able to believe in one or many Gods.
Another example in the differences between the FLDS religion and the Hinduism religion are, the FLDS religion believes in having multiple wives in able to reach heaven, where the Hinduism religion believes in only having one wife at one time, and in able to reach heaven, one must reach their own personal spiritual awakening through meditation, yoga, and karma. * * The similarities between the FLDS religion and the Hinduism religion are very few. The main similarities are, both religion believe in a higher power that had created the earth, and all living creatures.
Both religions believe the creator is all powerful and omnipresent. Both religions also believe there are steps taken to reach heaven, even though the steps are different in both religions. In conclusion, the FLDS religion is a religion that is not understood by many people. There are many secrets within the FLDS religion, which create rumors about the FLDS. These rumors may be false, or hold truth, but the only one’s who will ever know the complete truth of the FLDS religion, are those who have, or are, practicing the religion. Even though there are many differences and similarities with the FLDS religion and other eligions, such as Hinduism, the FLDS religion has many of their own beliefs and teachings that are hard for others to understand. In the end all religions are focused on one final truth, how to become closer to the creator, and how to once again be with the creator after death.